Excellent Clinical Outcomes and High Retention in Care Among Adults in a Community-Based HIV Treatment Program in Rural Rwanda

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Abstract

Background:

Access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) has rapidly expanded; as of the end of 2010, an estimated 6.6 million people are receiving ART in low-income and middle-income countries. Few reports have focused on the experiences of rural health centers or the use of community health workers. We report clinical and programatic outcomes at 24 months for a cohort of patients enrolled in a community-based ART program in southeastern Rwanda under collaboration between Partners In Health and the Rwandan Ministry of Health.

Methods and Findings

A retrospective medical record review was performed for a cohort of 1041 HIV+ adult patients initiating community-based ART between June 1, 2005, and April 30, 2006. Key programatic elements included free ART with direct observation by community health worker, tuberculosis screening and treatment, nutritional support, a transportation allowance, and social support. Among 1041 patients who initiated community-based ART, 961 (92.3%) were retained in care, 52 (5%) died and 28 (2.7%) were lost to follow-up. Median CD4 T-cell count increase was 336 cells per microliter [interquartile range: (IQR): 212–493] from median 190 cells per microliter (IQR: 116–270) at initiation.

Conclusions:

A program of intensive community-based treatment support for ART in rural Rwanda had excellent outcomes in 24-month retention in care. Having committed to improving access to HIV treatment in sub-Saharan Africa, the international community, including country HIV programs, should set high programmatic outcome benchmarks.

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